Saturday, February 26, 2011
As promised, here's the continuation of the French Revolution article. Enjoy
The Assembly Reforms France
The night of August 4, 1789, noblemen made grand speeches, declaring their love of liberty and equality. Motivated by fear, they joined other members of the National Assembly in sweeping away the feudal privileges of the First Estate and the Second Estate. By morning, the Old Regime was dead.
The Rights of Man
On August 27, the National Assembly adopted a statement called “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”. The document stated that “men are born and remain free and equal in rights”. Other articles of the famous document guaranteed citizens equal justice, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. The expression “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” became the slogan of the Revolution ever since.
A State-Controlled Church
During 1790, the assembly took over the church lands and declared that church officials and priests were to be elected by property owners and paid as state officials. Thus, the Catholic Church lost both its lands and political independence. The delegates were willing to sell church lands to help pay off France’s large debt.
Many French peasants were conservative Catholics. Assembly’s move to make the church part of the state offended such Catholics who believed that the pope should rule over a church independent of the state. From this time on, the peasants often opposed further revolutionary changes.
Louis Tries to Escape
As the National Assembly restructured, Louis XVI pondered his fate as a monarch. In June 1791, Louis and his family tried to escape from France to the Austrian Netherlands. A postmaster recognized the king from his portrait on some paper money. By his attempted escape, Louis XVI sealed his own doom.
War and Extreme Measures
In 1792, the French were faced with a disastrous foreign war. Many European countries feared that peasants revolts similar to the ones in France could break out in their own countries (Like Tunez effect).
War with Austria and Prussia
When Austria and Prussia proposed that France put Louis back on the throne, the Legislative Assembly responded by declaring war on Austria in April 1972, Prussia joining Austria.
The war began badly for the poorly equipped French forces. By the summer of 1792, enemy armies were advancing towards Paris. On July 25, the Prussian commander threatened to destroy Paris if the revolutionaries harmed any member of the royal family. On August 10, about 20,00 men and women invaded the Tuileries. The king’s Swiss Guard of 900 men fought desperately to defend Louis. The mob brutally massacred them and imprisoned Louis, Marie Antoinette, and their children in a stone tower.
Parisians learned that French troops were failing to hold back the approaching Prussian forces. They also heard rumors that the royalists imprisoned in Paris would seize control of the city. In response, angry citizens took the law into their own hands. In early September, Parisians raided the prisons and murdered over 1,000 prisoners. Many royalists, nobles, clergymen fell victim to the angry mobs.
Faced with the thread of the Parisian radicals, the Legislative Assembly set aside the constitution of 1791, declared the king deposed, and dissolved their assembly, calling for the election of a new legislature.
Just as the new government took office, the French Army won a battle against the Austrians and Prussians.
Radicals Execute the King
During the frenzied summer of 1792, the leaders of the mobs on the streets had more real power than any government assembly. Their leaders came from the bourgeoisie.
The most radical club in 1792 was the Jacobin Club, where violent speech-making was the order of the day. The Jacobins wanted to remove the king and establish a republic.
In September 21, the National Convention abolished the monarchy and declared France a republic. The delegates reduced Louis XVI’s role from that of a king to that of a common citizen and prisoner. Then, guided by radical Jacobins, they tried Louis for treason and found him guilty. By a very close vote, they sentenced him to death. On January 21, 1793, the ex-king walked with calm dignity up the steps of the scaffold to be beheaded by the guillotine. He then begins a speech:
"I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge; I Pardon those who have occasioned my death; and I pray to God that the blood you are going to shed may never be visited on France."
He tries to continue, but is cut short by the guards as they push him under the blade. Then, Louis XVI is beheaded.
With that, I conclude today’s article. In my opinion, Louis was the Estate-General’s puppet, while he and his wife just spent money on everything and did nothing for the French people. Radicals just wanted his head, as well as the clergy’s and royalists’. What do you think of the Jacobins’ actions? Do you think Parisians went too far? Leave some comments and as always, don’t hesitate to ask questions. See you tomorrow with another article!